No one really knows where the idea for a tug of war came from, many people think the ancient Egyptian were playing a tug of war, but it came into international prominence in the 1900 Summer Olympic Games when it was introduced as an Olympic competition. It flourished as an Olympic event for 20 years until it was discontinued after the 1920 Olympics. After a several decade hiatus the tug of war resurfaced in international competition when the World Games was first competed in 1981. The World Games is competed ever four years but in odd numbered years so as not to try and directly compete with the Olympic games which are contested on the even years. The tug of war has been a permanent part of the World Games since it started in 1981 and promises to be a prominent event when the World Games compete again in 2009 in Chinese Taipei.
The tug of war as an organized competition is extremely popular in Europe especially in England, Ireland, and the Netherlands. International tug of war competition bodies such as the Tug Of War International Federation hold events all over the world while regional organizations such as the Scottish Tug Of War Association and the Dutch Tug Of War Association hold regional and national events to crown annual champions. Back in the Olympic days England, Sweden, and Denmark were frequent tug of war medalists so it probably stands to reason that the tug of war finds its greatest support in these European nations. The United States won medals in the tug of war as well but the sport has never really caught on in the United States with any kind of sustained popularity. That would explain why there is such a lack of tug of war associations in the United States but an over abundance of them in England and throughout Europe. The United States usually does field a team for the tug of war competition at the World Games every four years.